Guitarist/Composer John Fahey Dead At 61

Eccentric avant-folk artist suffered complications from heart surgery.

Eccentric avant-folk guitarist and composer John Fahey died Thursday (February 22) after suffering complications following heart bypass surgery. He was 61.

According to a statement issued by his label, Revenant Records, Fahey went into the hospital late last week after complaining of chest and arm pain. After a sextuple bypass his kidneys shut down, and after another heart procedure Thursday morning he was placed on life support. He was removed from life support around 11 a.m. Thursday and died soon after.

Growing up, the Maryland-born Fahey immersed himself in early country and blues music and recorded his first album, Blind Joe Death, in 1959. A rarity among rarities, only 95 copies were pressed, though he re-recorded the songs for the Takoma label — which he later ran — in 1964.

Over the course of his 40-year recording career, Fahey pushed the limits of acoustic guitar, drawing on Indian ragas and dissonant classical compositions in addition to his blues and country roots. Along the way, he helped bring the music of Delta blues guitarists Charlie Patton and Bukka White to a larger audience.

Since 1986, Fahey suffered from Epstein-Barr syndrome and diabetes, which knocked him out of commission until 1997, when he recorded City of Refuge. The 1994 Rhino retrospective Return of the Repressed is widely regarded as the best introduction to Fahey's repertoire.

Fahey would have turned 62 on Wednesday.